Preview Piece: Megan W. Minogue
Jimmy Fay launched the Lyric Theatre’s new season this morning, emphasizing the support of new writers and continued community engagement. The season is entitled ‘Northern Soul’, and begins with this summer’s production of Can’t Forget About You, a play by David Ireland which was commissioned by the Lyric when he was the writer in residence last year. Having played at the Naughton Studio last summer, the comedy was well-received and should play well on the Main Stage.
Simon Stephens’ play Punk Rock will run in August-September. Set during sixth form exams, the play is about the pressures faced by young people in our modern age: beginning the autumn season with this emphasis on youth is deliberate on Fay’s part, as he wants to put young people at the centre of what the Lyric is doing.
Next up is Stewart Parker’s final masterpiece, Pentecost, which will be directed by Jimmy Fay himself: though serving as the Lyric’s Executive Producer, he also wishes to be part of the creative process. The timing is apt, as it is the 40th anniversary of the Ulster Work Council strike, during which Pentecost is set. According to the programme for the new season, the play “sets out to find the light in the dark”, and the combination of Parker’s writing and Fay’s directing will surely deliver on this promise.
The Christmas season sees the production of two new plays: Mistletoe &Crime by Marie Jones and Sleeping Beauty by Derek O’Connor. Jones has described her new play as ‘Cagney and Lacey in Belfast’ and, under the direction of Dan Gordon, it will surely be a popular performance for the adults. Children will be treated to a new musical adaptation of the classic story of Sleeping Beauty, which will be choreographed and directed by Deborah Maguire.
Mark Carruthers, the Chairman of the Lyric’s Board of Directors, opened the launch by speaking about how this season would ensure the Lyric’s place among the top tier theatres throughout the UK and Ireland. He is especially driven to have the Lyric recognized alongside the Abbey as a leader in theatre-making in Ireland, and the final play of the Lyric’s new ‘Northern Soul’ season accomplishes just that. Owen McCafferty’s new play The Death of a Comedian is co-produced with the Abbey and the Soho Theatre in London but will receive its premiere at the Lyric.
Northern Irish theatres and theatre-makers have in recent months been accused by politicians (and theatre-makers themselves) of being ‘inaccessible’ and ‘elitist’. But Fay denied such claims, and rightfully so: the Lyric is one of the most reasonably priced theatres in Belfast (student tickets are £10, season ticket holder schemes priced as low as £60 for five performances, and registered community groups can take advantage of £5 Super Saver tickets) and hosts numerous school and outreach programmes through its Creative Learning department. The ‘Northern Soul’ season at the Lyric Theatre will surely continue this fine record of community engagement and outreach, and promises to be a great year of theatre.
Photo courtesy of the Lyric Theatre